Originally known as Melkhoutskraal, the Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve encompasses 250 hectares of indigenous forest in the foothills of the Langeberg Mountains, close to Heidelberg. The name translates to “big father” in honour of Roelof Oelofse who owned the land in 1723. It has only been a reserve since 1986 and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004. On my annual visit from the soggy island that is the UK to the Fairest Cape at the tip of Africa, doing a series of day walks, a cycle or possibly a longer walk with my friend from school days, Ralph, has over the years become a bit of an institution. On this occasion Ralph warmed to my suggestion of re-visiting an area walked many years ago, just before the new millennium, I think it was, when we tackled Boosmansbos, located adjacent to Grootvadersbosch, along with Ralph’s American pal ‘Big Ron’.
So after an early start from Stellenbosch, we arrived in the Overberg early to mid-afternoon and after setting up camp, which for me involved pitching a tent whereas Ralph had “moved up in the world”, in reality, to the tent perched on the roof of his offroad vehicle. The site provides self-catering cabin accommdation and 12 campsites, which overlook the indigenous forest. Access to the hiking or cycling trails requires a permit. To stretch out legs for the longer walk to be undertaken the following day, we tackled the Redwood Trail, which heads towards the Duiwenhoks River and in the process, managed to get lost somehow. Dinner the first night comprised packet pasta cooked on Ralph’s portable gas stove that has seen much use over the years.
Owing to fires which had burnt out much of the area along the Saagkloof Trail towards Boosmanbos, we decided to follow the Loerklip Trail bypassing Dwarsberg instead, the landscape untouched by fire save the lower sections just above Grootvadersbosch. The trail twists and turns, crossing a couple of streams, after which it leads through upper sections rich in fynbos before reaching a ridge that offered views north towards Barrydale, on the Klein Karoo side of the Overberg. The path continues on to Helderfontein, location of the nature reserve’s overnight huts.
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